Tart and tangy, sweet and satisfying. This pie is easy to make, and can easily move from everyday to holiday dinner dessert.
We love our cranberries in New England. Their pop of tartness and vibrant red color move from sweet to savory with ease. What would the Thanksgiving table be without cranberry sauce or relish? I’ve recipes for cranberry muffins and breads, vegetables roasted with cranberries, cranberries in sautés and rice and meat dishes, cranberry parfaits and puddings, show-off tarts, cookies, crisps, cheesecakes and other desserts, and any number of special beverages.
One traditional favorite is Nantucket Pie, or Nantucket Cranberry Pie. Now, in keeping with other New England desserts, a Nantucket Pie isn’t really what we think of as a pie, more a cake, or a pie/cake hybrid. But we also call a yellow cake layered with pastry cream and topped with chocolate a Boston Cream Pie, so our definitions might be a little different than yours.
For this dessert, the ingredients are simple, a layer of cranberries and sugar, and a batter of flour, butter, eggs, sugar, and often almond extract. Sometimes it is made as an upside-down cake, but since I wanted to keep this simple, I just serve it up as a pie.
Let’s make a few changes
My in-laws spent a few weeks every summer on Nantucket Island, Massachusetts. They absolutely loved the area. Each year, Pat would return with a folder full of recipes she acquired there, either from chefs she cozied up to, or from newspapers or magazines on the island. This dessert was one of her favorites.
In her version, Pat used the almond extract, but I prefer this using vanilla extract. I think the almond extract makes it taste too much like cherry pie. I use all-purpose flour since I often don’t have cake flour in the house. I increased the walnuts a bit, and decreased the sugar just a tad as well. Pat’s recipe uses twice the amount of cranberries as most versions, but I like hers best!
I’ve also added a couple of touches of my own –– the chopped up crystalized ginger and the lemon zest. I can’t help it; I just can’t leave a recipe alone! My grandson and husband love the changes, and that’s fine by me!
Vary as you like
You can make your own changes too. Add some chopped up apple or pear, perhaps swap out the nuts for another. And, You can make this with a gluten-free baking flour as well. There are those in the family who need to eat this with whipped cream or ice cream, but I think it’s best straight up.
No rolling of dough, no crusts to play around with. One bowl, one baking dish, one wooden spoon. Lots of smiles!
Nantucket Cranberry Pie
- 4 cups cranberries (I bag)
- 3/4 cup walnuts, chopped and toasted
- ½ cup crystalized ginger, chopped
- Zest of one lemon
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 1 ½ sticks unsalted butter, softened
- 2 large eggs
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 cup flour
- ½ tsp. salt
- 1 tbsp. brown or coarse sugar
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a deep-dish pie plate or round cake tin.
Chop the cranberries in half and place in the buttered baking dish. If you like, toast your walnuts in a dry pan over medium high heat until fragrant and add them to the cranberries along with the ginger, zest, and sugar.
In a mixing bowl, beat the butter with the sugar with a wooden spoon until soft and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat until well combined. Add the flour and salt, mixing only until combined. This will be a thick batter.
Dollop the batter over the berries, and gently spread it out. You might need to moisten your fingers a little to do this. Sprinkle with the sugar.
Bake for 30 minutes, turn the cake around, and continue baking until brown and firm on top, about 15 to 25 minutes more, or until set and browned.
Let cool. You can serve this with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream if you want to dress it up.
Pat’s Nantucket Pie
Nantucket Pie Grease cake pan and add 1 bag of halved cranberries, ½ cup walnuts, and ½ cup sugar. Make topping, beat together 1 1/2 sticks of soft butter, 1 cup of sugar, then add two eggs, and ½ tsp. almond extract. Spoon in 1 cup cake flour and mix to combine, then dot on top of berries and spread out. Sprinkle with brown sugar. Bake 350 degrees for 45 minutes or until brown.
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